Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Poke A Sleeping Bear

How many other ridiculous laws are there that I don't know about because they haven't applied to me yet? I'm not intending to have a political rally, but something is messed up here.

Yesterday I had my meeting with the Vice Principal about my perceived lack of interest in my children's education and, by so doing, contributing to their delinquency. They might not have said it, but it was implied when they sent that menacing letter.

To my surprise this wasn't a personal summons, it was a group summons! I was joined for an informative power point presentation (that she wasn't able to finish) by 20-30 other parents who looked equally irate. The exact number was hard to nail down as they kept trickling in and leaving. But no one was happy.

Do you know what your state/district policy is on attendance and what they consider to be an excused or unexcused absence? Might want to check. If nothing else it might be fun or informative.

I had to go back and look at my handout.... that's right handouts. She wanted to make sure there was no excuse for our ignorance in the future. Who is she talking to? Are we delinquents? Misfits? Criminals?

Might I point out that this information would have been invaluable before the start of the school year and much less effective at the mid-point. But that is my personal opinion - which you are not allowed to have, or so it seems.

A lot of the parents had questions about why they were here when they sent in notes. I was wondering that myself. Apparently, the notes are supposed to go directly to the office not the teacher. Why aren't the teachers directing the parents/students to send them to the office? Why are notes getting lost? It was a circus. A bureaucracy.

One of the attendees, a female physician, asked the question about illnesses. Her daughter had been sick. She is a physician and knew it was just a virus and didn't need to be taken to the doctor. Guess what? If she doesn't have a note, it is unexcused. No kidding. I bet this doctor will have a colleague write her notes in the future.

Not only that, if the child misses a day of school because they are sick and don't get into the doctor on the same day, that first day is not excused. It is an unexcused absence, but the following day that they do see a doctor would be excused. They don't treat the entire length of absence as the same absence. Insanity.

What I got out of the meeting is that this "office" is getting in the way of the relationship I have with the teacher. I go to the teacher to coordinate what goes on with my child in her classroom. What does the administrative office have to do with that? Well, they like to be involved in everything and the Vice Principal even went so far as to say we could email her with our notices of absences the day they happen and then follow up with a written letter when the child returns to school. But it needs to be done with 3 days of the absence or it is automatically an unexcused absence. Send the note in anyway even after 3 days just so there is documentation.

I held my tongue as long as I could. When people started getting up and leaving after an hour, she got the message and concluded by offering to take individual questions at her laptop if we needed. So I got in line like a good girl and asked her about the dates on my notice.

Partial Un-excused absence 1 - took child out of school 30 minutes early to leave for a weekend trip.
Partial Un-excused absence 2 - took child out of school 30 minutes early for doctors appointment.

Let me mention that I looked at my children's classroom schedule and determined they were not missing anything instructive at this particular time. And because the line to pick up my children at the end of the day can take 15-30 minutes to get through it wouldn't be possible to pick them up after school if I wanted to be on time for their doctors appointment. Any time missed between 8:15 and 2:45 is considered an absence. Ridiculous.

6 Unexcused full day absences - all taken to spend time with family. Notes written, received, and reason deemed unacceptable.

However, if my children had missed those days because someone died, was terminally ill, sick themselves (only with approved medical care and documentation), or celebrating a religious holiday would the absences have been excused. Those are the only 4 reasons an absence may be excused.

My question to her was short. "Do I understand that if my children miss 4 more days for any reason other than the 4 you have given, you will file charges?"

Her answer. "Yes. It's not my law, I just have to follow it. You can write your state representative."

My reply. "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I will be contacting your office to discuss another matter." By other matter I meant, let me show you who is in charge when it comes to me and my family. See, don't poke a sleeping bear - especially one with cubs!

Seriously. Yes, we need laws. But we have some really stupid laws. And for that matter, maybe we have too many of them! Do we really need state laws for public school attendance? I suppose they do for funding issues, and that is what this really boils down to. They are protecting their funding, and this situation proved that clearly. What is best for my child, and my rights as a parent aren't on the top of their list. Contributing to a happy child and healthy family relationships is not good for their bottom line.

So I am going to take her suggestion and write a few letters. I write when I am mad. I've noticed my blog posts are longer, too.

On the list today: Principal (not my pal), Vice Principal (certainly not my pal), District Superintendent, State Board of Education, State Representative, State Senator, and anyone else I can think of to add to my list. What do I expect to come out of it? Nothing. I will probably be labeled a trouble maker and put on a list of some kind.

This is the issue that gets me all hot and bothered. My children have spent their entire lives living away from family of any kind. They see their grandparents once a year. They have aunts and uncles they don't remember, and cousins they have never met. The school district would rather they miss school to attend funerals, than spend time with them while living. How is that in the best interest of these children or my family? Plain and simple: it isn't and they don't seem to care. They are just following the law and the law doesn't allow for taking situations case by case.

I don't think the law was designed for Kindergarten and 2nd grade students. As a parent if they were in middle school, or high school, we would have taken their subject load into consideration and probably made a different decision based on how they were doing, how much work they would miss, and if it would be possible to make up. If they were struggling with reading, writing, or math we might have reconsidered. But 6 days, or even 12 days, in early elementary education is not going to cause a learning deficiency in these children. I know my children. Heaven forbid we use our commons sense and look at the entire picture before pressing charges.

I haven't decided what my next move will be. I am thinking about taking them out of school on Friday so we can have a picnic and go to the museum just to be spiteful. Of course, I would send the vice principal an email and a note the following day. I might even include a smiley face. She said we had 9 days to "play-with" and since my kids don't get sick, we will choose to play and use every single one of those days however I see fit. They are my kids!

It's too late to get them into a private school, and I haven't even seen one close. My only option is to consider homeschooling for the last 4 months. I'm not convinced the school is doing any better than I could. My faith in them is completely lost.

As for the future. I made it clear to my husband that we would be looking for public school alternatives for next year. I can't support it, and we don't have to. The irrational behavior of one public school has turned me off of all public schools. It is a shame to run good families and good kids out of the system. I am starting to see why they are against school choice. Who would choose to stay?



  1. i'm not familiar about the school in your country. but maybe that's the problem with public school. they should be a bit flexible with the rules. just my 2 cents.


  2. LMAO!!! You make so much sense...welcome to "public school" in America....:) which is why the people who can afford it do everything but sell their first born to attend private school. :) I worked as a public school teacher in TX for almost a decade. And went to public school down there too. At first these laws were put into place because there were REAL problems with kids skipping class and/or POS parents not sending their kids to school. The punishments were for both the kids and parents. Then all the funding cuts were put into place when the state turned officially RED and forget it the whole thing went to hell in a handbasket. Now one of the only ways the school gets their $20/head/day is with attendance. Everyone (Even the principals) are UNDERPAID, under appreciated and their valuable time is wasted on ridiculous meetings like the one you went to! That sounded like my weekly staff meetings. complete waste of TIME! I'm sorry you're going through this but better now than when it's too late....start figuring out what private school you want to send your kids to at your final destination. Attend the "open house"es and ask for a private tour. See what kind of learning goes on when the charade is not in place. As for their school policy handbook that should have all these dumb rules in place. Good grief! What a circus. At my daughter's current school parents pull kids out for a week sometimes bc Dad has vacation in mid-Feb and dammit they are going somewhere and too bad! Nobody cares...of course, she is in private school.

  3. This post is just so disappointing to read. I was hoping you would do an update on the letter and that it would have gone another way, not in the direction of the school blowing it completely out of proportion. I worked in the public school system for a few years and was very lucky to work in a district with amazing administration. However, that seems to be a rarity. Most are desperate for funding. The average parent/teacher/administration relationship and line of communication is poor. Parents should feel like they are on a team with the school's employees, but often they are put in situations where they have to go on the defense instead of working together. Ugh, it's just counterproductive. Anyway, sorry for the ramble - I just dislike hearing about situations like this.

    Hope your letters to the higher ups do some good!!! They need to change their tune!

    1. I was hoping for a different outcome too. I feel bad on so many levels. We had every intention of keeping our kids in public school now and into the future. But the more I find out, the more we experience, the more disappointed I get. I am just really hurt that they place school above family when I thought having a healthy family was good for healthy schools. I don't need their child-care, I don't need their food, I don't need to be made to feel like my role in my child's education is lesser than theirs. I am just broken hearted that they were so rigid with their application of the law. Yes we have 6 unexcused absences, the way they handled it could have been so much better. I find I am running in to that a lot lately. That means I am probably on the giving end some where along the line:-)

  4. Oh man, I would be so mad. You are totally justified in your anger! Hope you can find a solution.


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